Explosion in Congo: a bomb attack in a bar kills 6
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BENI, CONGO – A suicide bomber attacked a restaurant and bar on Saturday as customers gathered on Christmas Day, killing at least six other people in a town in eastern Congo where Islamic extremists are known to be active .
Heavy gunfire rang out shortly after the bomb exploded, panicking crowds fleeing the city center.
Saturday’s attack marked the first known time that a suicide bomber claimed victims in eastern Congo, where an Islamic State-affiliated group earlier this year took responsibility for a suicide bombing near another bar in Beni which had no other casualties.
The latest violence only heightens fears that religious extremism is taking hold in a region already plagued by rebels for years.
General Sylvain Ekenge, spokesperson for the governor of North Kivu, said security guards prevented the suicide bomber from entering the crowded bar and the person instead detonated the explosives at the entrance.
“We call on people to be vigilant and to avoid crowded areas during the holiday season,” he said in a statement. “In the city and the territory of Beni, it is difficult, in these times to know who is who.”
Rachel Magali had been at the restaurant and bar for about three hours with her sister-in-law and several others when she heard a loud noise outside.
“Suddenly we saw black smoke surrounding the bar and people started crying,” she told The Associated Press. “We rushed over to the exit where I saw people lying down. There were green plastic chairs strewn all over the place and I also saw heads and arms that were no longer attached. It was really horrible. . “
Among the dead were two children, according to Mayor Narcisse Muteba, who is also a police colonel. At least 13 other people were injured and taken to a local hospital.
“Investigations are underway to find the perpetrators of this terrorist attack,” he told The Associated Press.
The city has long been the target of rebels from the Allied Democratic Forces, or ADF, a group that has its origins in neighboring Uganda. But in June, ISIS’s Central Africa province said it was behind the suicide bomber and another explosion on the same day at a Catholic church that injured two people.
Residents of the city have repeatedly expressed their anger at the continued insecurity despite an army offensive and the presence of UN peacekeepers in Beni. From 2018 to 2020, the city also suffered from an Ebola outbreak which became the second deadliest in history. More than 2,200 people have died in eastern Congo, as vaccination efforts were sometimes thwarted by insecurity in the region.
Associated Press reporter Krista Larson in Dakar, Senegal contributed to this report.
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